A week in Warsaw

After last year’s very enjoyable SVP meeting in Bristol, I was able to spend some time at the Paleontological Institute in Warsaw. Mike and I were there to look at Gobi ankylosaurs. The Polish-Mongolian Expeditions in the 1960s and 70s discovered many exciting new taxa of ankylosaurs, including Tarchia and Saichania, and an excellent juvenile Pinacosaurus.

The Institute has a public gallery in the Palace of Culture and Science, in the heart of the city. The Museum of Evolution is well worth a visit if you are in Warsaw. (Mike for scale in the above photo.)

The holotype of Saichania (a cast of which is on display in the museum) is a stunning specimen. In particular, I love how it shows the two bands of bone around the neck (the cervical half rings), which look kind of like yokes.

I was also a pretty big fan of this dapper Pinacosaurus, with his growly teeth and serrated tail club. Serrated! Can you imagine how terrifying that would have been?

In the background you can see the truly astounding Deinocheirus arms – I think all of us would like to know what the rest of that animal looked like. Tarbosaurus for scale in the foreground!

Poland also has its share of vertebrate fossils, including the interesting and somewhat enigmatic Silesaurus. If you’ve been keeping up on your basal dinosauromorph systematics (and I’m sure you have!), then you’ll remember that a new sister group to the Dinosauria, the Silesauridae, was named this year and includes this animal.

I do enjoy touristing when I’m research travelling. Mike and I visited the Old Town part of Warsaw. This part of the city dates back to the 13th century, but was badly damaged during World War II. However, the Old Town is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to the careful reconstruction (using much of the original materials) of the area.

The mermaid as defender is the symbol of Warsaw and one of the most famous statues is this one in the Old Town. There are various stories about why the mermaid is the symbol, but my favourite is that this is the sister of the mermaid in Copenhagen.

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